Top Startup Entrepreneur Books
Here are links to the best books available to get you up to speed on new venture strategies and entrepreneurship, along with my take on them.
They aren’t in any hierarchical order but are curated to work as a whole. This power-packed mini library will help you develop more agency in pursuing your dreams and controlling your destiny. Discover your Why, What, and How.
Also check out this page with more general life-changing transformative reads.
Pick a couple, grab a cup of coffee, and get down to level up!
Start with this quick eBook. It will provide the context and overview so you can assimilate the knowledge and skills in the rest of these recommended books. MBA ASAP's overview and synthesis of Entrepreneurial Thinking and the major startup methodologies:
- Business Model Canvas
- Lean Startup
- Design Thinking
- Growth Hacking
The landscape has changed since a generation ago. The landscape has changed even since five years ago. Robots, automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, algorithms; these technical trends are disrupting industries, careers and traditional jobs. These trends will impact you profoundly and they all point to one direction: more skills, more real learning.
Future-proof yourself: it's about your skill set. Start with a skill set that will make you more valuable at your current job, help you start something on the side, or let you quit and start your own business.
The Lean Startup details the core methodology of how to go from ideas to products and services that best fit customer needs. It lays out the process that can be consistently applied in creating successful startups.
Eric was an early student of Steve Blank, who’s work is also on this list, and coined the term “pivot” in relation to navigating the process of modifying products in search of a fit between them and customers.
Eric is currently the CEO of the Long-Term Stock Exchange and has served as entrepreneur-in-residence at the Harvard Business School and Venture Advisor at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Bill Aulet is a long time practicing entrepreneur and an instructor at MIT, one of the most rigorous institutions in the world. He has both created hundreds of millions of dollars of market value leading entrepreneurial ventures and also taught thousands of entrepreneurs in the past decade.
The author was unable to find a book to teach his classes at MIT and began to put together the material into a reader. He assembled the practical and yet rigorous information to pull together the various elements into the book he wished he had when he first became an full time entrepreneur 20 years ago.
A practical manual for working through the 24-step framework presented in Disciplined Entrepreneurship. Unlocks key lessons and breaks down the steps. This book helps you delve deeper into the framework to get your business up and running with a greater chance for success. You'll find the tools you need to sharpen your instinct, engage your creativity, work through hardship, and give the people what they want—even if they don't yet know that they want it. Real-world examples illustrate the framework in action, and case studies highlight critical points that can make or break you when your goal is on the line. Exercises and assessments help you nail down your strengths, while pointing out areas that could benefit from reinforcement—because when it comes to your business, "good enough" isn't good enough—better is always better.
In Hacking Growth, Sean Ellis, founder of GrowthHackers.com and Morgan Brown take you behind the scenes of the fastest growing companies in the world: Facebook, Uber, Dropbox, Pinterest, AirBnB and many more, to uncover the secrets of how these teams move fast and compound win after win to crush their competition and create extraordinary value. Sean and Morgan provide the step-by-step growth hacking process that any company, in any vertical can use to find growth wins faster and leave their competition in the dust.
The best primer on the subject by a Silicon Valley star. I read the first iteration of Art of the Start when it initially came out in 2004 and it was really helpful in developing my understanding of how to create and launch a startup. The Art of the Start 2.0 is an updated version that takes into account how much the landscape has evolved.
Here is a quick video summary that will give you a sense of the book and its ideas. I love these short graphic videos!
Guy is a formative figure in Silicon Valley and came to prominence for his work with Apple back in the Macintosh days. He has written a bunch of great books including: Enchantment and The Art of Social Media.
Steve Blank is the guru of startup and entrepreneur education. He has codified the methods and processes that work. This book sparked the Lean Startup revolution. The Four Steps to the Epiphany describes how to create valuable product offerings. It explains the method that ensures you have a market of customers willing to buy what your selling before you attempt to scale your offering.
The book describes value-creation as a “Customer Development” process - discovering what your customers actually want, validating that you have something to offer them, making real sales, and then building the company to fulfill proven demand.
This is his course text from Berkeley's Haas Business School and Stanford University.
To get a feel for Steve and his philosophy check out this short series of videos from Kaufman Entrepreneurs. You may also want to check out The Startup Owner's Manual.
The crux of Business Model Generation is the Business Model Canvas, which was developed by the author Alexander Osterwalder. It has become the main tool for entrepreneurs in organizing the components of any business venture.
The Business Model Canvas is the template for formulating and testing business hypothesis, creating product market fit, and finding a sustainable business model.Searching for a sustainable business model is the goal of any startup. This book goes through lots of examples of how to use the Canvas to that goal.
Also check out Value Proposition Design.
Mark Twain once observed, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus public-health scares circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas-businessmen, educators, politicians, journalists, and others—struggle to make their ideas “stick.”
Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In Made to Stick, accomplished educators and idea collectors Chip and Dan Heath tackle head-on these vexing questions. Inside, the Heath brothers reveal the anatomy of ideas that “stick” and explain sure-fire methods for making ideas stickier, such as violating schemas, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating “curiosity gaps.”
The Economist said: "too many management books and courses focus on telling people what they should do right, but rarely offer any detail about how to rebound when they inevitably screw up. And the advice they give about what to do right is sometimes badly wrong."
The Hard Thing About Hard Things helps set the record straight.
Ben Horowitz is one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture capitalists.
Ben is a principal of the stellar Venture Capital firm Andreesen Horowitz. His partner Marc Andreessen invented the first web browser Mosaic and founded Netscape.
Check out the firm's podcast a16z which represents the number of letters between the A in Andreesen and the Z in Horowitz. Its strange how powerful of a mnemonic device that is!
This is a brilliant book by the creators of Ruby on Rails and Basecamp.
These guys have built an incredible company in 37signals and they know what they are talking about when it comes to developing great products that attract devoted customers and users.
It is a short read. I read Rework in six days in 2012 and it was an immediate and powerful reset on my thinking.
Here is an entertaining video summary of the book.
The field of marketing has been transformed from Mad Men 3 martini lunches, big pitches, and huge media buys into a software and engineering discipline.
Marketing is now baked into products and services as part of design and development. And then tools like social media, Google Analytics and Adwords turbocharge awareness and sales.
Growth Hacker Marketing shows you how to achieve hockey stick growth with minimal resources. Lots of great case studies of companies that have experienced explosive growth and success.
Also check out The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy by Ryan.
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days is a collection of interviews with founders of famous technology companies about what happened in the very earliest days. These people are celebrities now. What was it like when they were just a couple friends with an idea? Founders like Steve Wozniak (Apple), Caterina Fake (Flickr), Mitch Kapor (Lotus), Max Levchin (PayPal), and Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail) tell you in their own words about their surprising and often very funny discoveries as they learned how to build a company.
Where did they get the ideas that made them rich? How did they convince investors to back them? What went wrong, and how did they recover?
Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream
The world is changing. Markets have crashed. Jobs have disappeared. Industries have been disrupted and are being remade before our eyes. Everything we aspired to for “security,” everything we thought was “safe,” no longer is: College. Employment. Retirement. Government. It's all crumbling down. In every part of society, the middlemen are being pushed out of the picture. No longer is someone coming to hire you, to invest in your company, to sign you, to pick you. It's on you to make the most important decision in your life: Choose Yourself.
James Altucher is an incredible guy. His podcast is one of the best. You owe it to yourself to check it out.
Brad Feld is an American entrepreneur, author, blogger, and venture capitalist at Foundry Group in Boulder, Colorado. He co-founded Techstars.
Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist is a guide to venture financings and includes advice on raising money, negotiating deals, and understanding venture capitalists.
To get a feel for Brad and his approach, check out his learning path on Kaufman Entrepreneurs.
Tim Ferriss has written a number of awesome books and has an incredible podcast. Tim deconstructs world-class performers and provides insight into their routines and habits and what makes them successful so we can all employ their lessons.
His other books: The Four Hour Workweek, The Four Hour Body, and The Four Hour Chef are all worth a deep read and are chock filled with actionable info.
Tools of Titans is Tim's latest and greatest book. It is a distillation of his podcast interviews and helpful advice from his other writings. The book is divided into three sections: Healthy, Wealthy and Wise. It’s a goldmine of useable, actionable wisdom.
Get your mind right, right now. Jaime and Steven are dedicated to mapping the core building blocks of optimum performance. Stealing Fire is the result of research into flow states and how to reliably achieve them. Flow states are those ephemeral times when everything goes perfectly. Its what basketball players call being unconscious when they hit four 3 pointers in a row. Athletes, musicians, computer coders and other top performers experience them as part of their work. It’s also called the Zone.
Stealing Fire explores the realm of optimum performance for creativity and learning and performance. It examines the latest findings in the psychology, neurology, pharmacology and technology of flow and how to get into the zone. It’s a balance of concentration and letting go.
Samuel Johnson observed, "When a man knows he is to be hanged...it concentrates his mind wonderfully." Stealing fire less risky and more repeatable ways to drop into the zone and easier access to altered states.
Steven Kotler is an incredible writer. I have read all his other books and they're great including: Abundance, Bold, and The Rise of Superman.
The title is a play on his Harvard colleague Clayton Christensen's seminal book The Innovator's Dilemma. The Founder's Dilemmas exposes startup pitfalls and explores how best to navigate and avoid them. He emphasizes the importance of making smart decisions regarding relationships, roles, and rewards. A crucial point he makes is in challenging founders to figure out whether they are motivated primarily by wealth or control. Understanding their motivation they can then make the corresponding choices to accomplish their goals. Are you motivated more by money or control?
Noam Wasserman is a professor at Harvard Business School. His HBS class, Founder’s Dilemmas, was named one of the top entrepreneurship classes in the county by Inc. magazine. He focuses his research on early founders’ decisions, particularly those that can trigger startup dissolution. Here you can see him in action and get a feel for his approach and style.
Crossing the Chasm is a guide to navigating the Valley of Death from early adopters to mainstream success.
Crossing the Chasm is about marketing innovative products during their introduction and initial phases. It is based on the idea of how innovations diffuse and are adopted as products. There are five segments in the adoption of technology lifecycle: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. The graph on the front cover is iconic and says it all.
Moore identified a chasm between the early adopters, the tech enthusiasts, and the more pragmatic early majority that follow. Tech geeks and pragmatists have very different expectations. Moore explores these differences and develops techniques to successfully cross the chasm between them.
Do things that inspire you. In order to do that you need to take the time to uncover why you do things. Then you can choose to do the things in which you find a larger purpose doing.
Why do some companies achieve things that completely exceed our expectations, defying all our assumptions for what's possible?
This is a question that Simon posits in Start with Why and asks the audience as he begins his famous TED Talk. Check out the TED talk to get an idea of Simon and his ideas.
The most important lesson of The Startup of You is how to take control of yourself to make the most out of your life, career and business.
Reid Hoffman is worth more than $3 Billion. He cofounded professional networking site LinkedIn which was sold to Microsoft for $26.2 billion in cash. Reid is also a partner at venture capital firm Greylock Partners and has led the firm's investments in Groupon and Airbnb.
He obviously can talk to the main lesson of the book from experience.
Peter Thiel is a billionaire PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor. He is also founder of the data analytics company Palantir, which I named after on of the stones of Gondor in Lord of the Rings.
Zero to One is the result of a course he has taught at Stanford. The co-author was one of his students who took copious notes, which ultimately resulted in the book.
Creating a game-changing company means going from zero to one; from nothing to something. This is very different than an established enterprise incrementally going from something to something slightly better. When starting a company look for a market where there is no direct competition. Competition drains valuable resources.
Check out this graphic video summary of Zero to One.
Also check out my book Managing and Leading Organizations and People. I wrote this book to codify my experience and the lessons I learned the hard way, so you can learn quickly from my hard earned knowledge.
Being an Effective Leader means being able to communicate well and be decisive without being rash. If you want to be a C-level executive or start and run your own business you need to know how to manage and lead.
Check out my other books Learn Accounting Fast! and Patent It Yourself!
Tim Brown is CEO of the design firm IDEO. Tim is a leading voice on the value of Design Thinking in business and society. Check out his TED talk.
Design Thinking is a user-centered way to conceive and create successful products and services.In the world of entrepreneurial incubation and startup culture it is often compared and contrasted with the lean startup approach, which is more engineering-based and quantitative. The two methods are far from mutually exclusive, and indeed are complementary, as both seek to effectively serve customers' needs through a systematic, low-risk path to innovating in the face of uncertainty.